- Cassava is the fourth most important food crop in the world after maize, wheat and rice.
- Kenya in 2019 developed the National Roots and Tuber Strategy to guide the development and production of the crop for industrial use in particular.
Kenya recently hosted a National Cassava Conference to enhance productivity as the country seeks to diversify its staple food away from maize.
This as the country's maize dependency increases amid low production, forcing perennial costly import that has largely contributed to the high cost of living.
Maize production is estimated at 3.2 million tonnes, up from the new estimate of 2.9 million tonnes in 2022-23, compared to an annual demand expected to hit 3.9 million tonnes.
The trade fair themed ‘Spearheading Innovation and Technology for Cassava Sector’, sought to create positive public awareness of cassava’s importance in food and nutrition security, and socio-economic development across the country.
Led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), and Self Help Africa in collaboration with the European Union and other key development organisations, the summit was held from October 24 to 26 at Nairobi's Safari Park Hotel.
Self Help Africa country director Jo Ryan said enhanced cassava productivity will save Kenya billions which are spent annually to import staple food produce and products for consumption and industrial use, that could be retained in the country for social and economic development projects.
“There is a need for consistent promotion across the country through cassava forums, trade fairs and exhibition events, considering its resilience to moisture stress, higher productivity per hectare over cereal crop farming and importance in food & nutrition security,” Ryan said.
The conference provided a learning platform for local, regional and international cassava value chain players, where they will showcase and demonstrate their latest technologies, products, and services as well as examine recent market trends and trade opportunities.
"It seeks to link and accelerate the development of affordable trading standards, procedures, protocols and accreditations; identify areas of initial support to cassava actors as well as promote national branding of cassava and cassava products and increase awareness of consumption.”
Cassava is the second most important root crop after the Irish potato grown throughout Kenya.
It is a drought-tolerant crop, providing a basic diet for most rural households thus addressing food insecurity and poverty mitigation.
Production of cassava in Kenya is mostly concentrated in a few agricultural ecological zones that include Western Kenya, the Coast and Eastern zones of the country.
In these regions, cassava accounts for a greater percentage of the total cassava production in the country.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, about 60 per cent of cassava in Kenya is produced in the western region, 10 per cent in the eastern region and 30 per cent on the Coast.
Kenya currently produces 1 million tonnes of cassava, most of which is consumed locally, but the country has the potential to produce more than three million tonnes annually.
According to Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi, food and nutrition security and adequate employment remain a significant challenge in Kenya, despite enormous natural and human resources, hence the demand for reliable and sustainable solutions.
Cassava plays a very important role in the economies of many countries and is a good carbohydrate source. It is also a good source of dietary fibre as well as vitamin C, thiamin, folic acid, manganese and potassium.
It is the fourth most important food crop in the world after maize, wheat and rice.
Kenya in 2019 developed the National Roots and Tuber Strategy to guide the development and production of the crop for industrial use in particular.
It identifies tuber crops as an important source of food for humans and livestock, especially as climate change effects unfold.